Biological stoichiometry in tumor micro-environments

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e51844. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051844. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Tumors can be viewed as evolving ecological systems, in which heterogeneous populations of cancer cells compete with each other and somatic cells for space and nutrients within the ecosystem of the human body. According to the growth rate hypothesis (GRH), increased phosphorus availability in an ecosystem, such as the tumor micro-environment, may promote selection within the tumor for a more proliferative and thus potentially more malignant phenotype. The applicability of the GRH to tumor growth is evaluated using a mathematical model, which suggests that limiting phosphorus availability might promote intercellular competition within a tumor, and thereby delay disease progression. It is also shown that a tumor can respond differently to changes in its micro-environment depending on the initial distribution of clones within the tumor, regardless of its initial size. This suggests that composition of the tumor as a whole needs to be evaluated in order to maximize the efficacy of therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phenotype
  • Tumor Microenvironment*

Grants and funding

This project has been partially supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF - Grant DMPS-0838705), the National Security Agency (NSA - Grant H98230-09-1-0104), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Office of the Provost of Arizona State University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.